A bicycle is a deceptively simple thing, just two wheels with seat and pedals. But what a multitude of roles the marvelous machine can play!
Bikes as exercise. Bikes as spectacle. Bikes as basic transportation. Bikes as vacationmobiles. The functions will all be on display in and around Baltimore in the coming days and weeks.
For example, a pair of training rallies (today and on May 18) are planned for the third annual Cycle Across Maryland pedaling vacation coming up this summer.
Next weekend will bring a superb spectator event, with top international racers -- including Tour de France winner Greg LeMond -- spinning through the state in the Tour Du Pont (the renamed 2-year-old race that used to be called the Tour du Trump; see accompanying article for details).
And May is also National Bike Month, as sponsored by the Baltimore-based League of American Wheelmen. Among other events, LAW has designated May 21 as Bike to Work Day across the nation.
So straddle your saddles, strap on your helmets and put some mettle to your pedals.
Getting Ready for CAM-Tour
The first of two May rallies for riders planning to do the 350-mile 'round-the-Chesapeake tour (July 28-Aug. 3) is being held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Salisbury State College on the Eastern Shore. A second rally is planned May 18 at Atholton High School in Howard County.
Both events offer training rides of varying lengths, equipment checks and even physical condition assessments. (For information or registration, call  842-BANK.)
And right now is when CAM-Tour riders ought to be training for the event, stresses Christa Eppinghaus, a physical therapist at the Bennett Institute of Sports Medicine (located at Children's Hospital in Baltimore), which is a co-sponsor of the tour.
The daily 55-mile trip average, as CAM-Tour progresses from Solomons through Annapolis, Essex, Northeast, Worton, Centreville and Easton, is not necessarily a daunting task. But it does require fitness and familiarity with one's bike, says Ms. Eppinghaus, herself a cyclist and 1987 finisher of the grueling Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii.
"You have about three months now, and if you can get out during the week at least once and ride for an hour or an hour-and-a-half, it will help," she suggests. "And if you can, try to ride both days on the weekend,with longer distances."
But it is equally important not to overdo things.
"Everybody wants to be in shape yesterday," Ms. Eppinghaus acknowledges. "So start with a mileage that's comfortable for you and work up." She also notes that pre-ride stretching exercises are a good idea.
Ms. Eppinghaus urges riders to plan to achieve a couple of rides before late July which at least match the longest daily distance of CAM-Tour (about 60 miles, unless you plan to do the optional "century" ride of 100 miles). And make sure on longer rides you carry plenty of liquid replenishment, at least two water bottles worth.
"You also need to train for what kind of terrain you will be riding [in the tour], so make sure you throw in some hilly rides," she says. She also suggests riders join group rides (such as those listed below) to become comfortable pedaling in crowds.
And the therapist urges riders who are considering an equipment change -- a new bike, the addition of "aero" handlebars, or a switch to "clipless" pedal systems -- to make it soon to enable them to get familiar with the gear. And on a related subject, she stresses that all riders should wear cycling shoes, either the cleated style or steel-shanked touring shoes.
Joining a ride
The cycling calendar in this region over the next month or so is jammed with events that include fund-raisers or just plain fun rides. And in addition to the major events listed below, the Baltimore Bicycling Club has a regular schedule of weekly group rides for cyclists of all ability levels, and including both road and mountain bike events. (For details, call the BBC at 792-8308.)
Here are some upcoming events:
May 5: A Clean Air Challenge sponsored by the American Lung Association of Maryland, in Great Falls National Park in Potomac. Up to 1,500 participants are expected for rides of 9.5 or 22 miles. $15 registration. Call 560-2120 (Baltimore) or (800) 492-7527 (elsewhere from Maryland).
May 13-19: The period has been designated National Bicycle Helmet Promotion Week, and cycling organizations and the National Safe Kids Campaign urge all riders everywhere to always don a safety-certified helmet before every ride.
May 18-19: In addition to the May 18 CAM-Tour rally in Howard County noted above, this weekend is designated by the Bicycle Institute of America as National Bike Ride Days. It's free and riders are merely urged to get out on a bike anywhere during the period. For $3, you can get by mail a patch that says "I Rode the National Bike Ride 1991." Write: P.O. Box 388-Z, Bristol, Vt. 05443.
May 21: A Tuesday, this is National Bike to Work Day, part of National Transportation Week, and the intent is to challenge all riders to consider using their two-wheeled vehicles as an energy-saving, money-saving and flab-saving option. More than half of U.S. workers live within five miles of their workplace, statistics show, making the bike a reasonable choice. (Call LAW for information, 944-3399.)
June 1-2: The Dash In/Multiple Sclerosis 150, a fund-raising 150-kilometer (93 miles) weekend circuit ride between Catonsville Community College and Western Maryland College in Westminster, with the Westminster campus the overnight stop. Gear transportation, rest stops, mechanics and medical personnel are provided in the $25 registration; riders must also -- collect a minimum $150 pledge. Call the Maryland Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society for information: 821-8626, or write: 1055 Taylor Ave., Suite 201, Towson, Md. 21204.
June 2: The second annual Escape to Frederick rally includes rides of 15- to 100-mile distances (and including an all-terrain route) in and around the county seat about an hour west of Baltimore. $20 registration includes a buffet meal and prizes. Call (301) 663-9288 or write (with a SASE): WheelBase, 229 N. Market St., Frederick, Md. 21701.
June 8-9: The Chesapeake Bay Bike Tour is a 150K event that begins and ends both days at Washington College in Chestertown. Ride transit points, via "a lot of very shaded country roads," include Tuckahoe State Park, Centreville, Rock Hall, Tolchester Beach and other scenic spots in Kent and Queen Anne's counties. It's a fund-raiser for the American Lung Association of Maryland; $35 registration plus a $250 pledge minimum. Call 560-2120 or (800) 492-7527, or write: 1840 York Road, Timonium, Md. 21093.